ERBIL, Kurdistan Region (Kurdistan 24) – President of Iraq Fuad Masum visited Kirkuk on Monday and met with security and administration officials in the Province to discuss issues which emerged following the Oct. 16 violent takeover of the area by Iraqi Forces and Iranian-backed Shia Hashd al-Shaabi militias.
Masum held a press conference with the Baghdad-appointed acting Governor of Kirkuk, Rakan Saeed al-Jabouri, to address security concerns since Oct. 16, the Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC), and Article 140 of the Iraqi Constitution.
“Kirkuk is Iraq on a smaller scale. No group has more rights than the other, and I will meet with all of them. I hope no signs of Oct. 16 will be left in Kirkuk,” Masum told reporters, referring to the controversial assault on the disputed territory.
Commenting on the appointment of a new Governor for Kirkuk after Baghdad ousted the former one, Najmaldin Karim, he stated that the people of Kirkuk and their representatives will have to elect a new candidate and that it would be the duty of Kirkuk Provincial Council (KPC) to appoint him. “The KPC will not be dissolved until new elections are held in the province.”
Regarding security concerns, Masum attempted to establish calm. “Counter-terrorism forces and the Kirkuk Provincial Police are in charge of security. There was a preliminary agreement to deploy Presidential guards to the cities of Khurmatu and Kirkuk, but it has not yet been implemented. I do not support this idea,” he added.
Masum has often been criticized by people in the Kurdistan Region for being powerless and playing an ineffective role in addressing issues between Erbil and Baghdad compared to former Iraqi President, the late Jalal Talabani.
Over 180,000 people from the Kirkuk province and other disputed territories have been displaced to the Kurdistan Region following the Oct. 16 attack.
While most of them remain displaced, houses and properties belonging to people who felt targeted by the forces who entered the cities are reportedly still being looted, burned, and destroyed, namely in Khurmatu, south of Kirkuk.
Editing by Nadia Riva